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Players are adapting to the taunting point of emphasis faster than expected

Players seem to be getting the message to stop taunting opponents.



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For 2021, the NFL Competition Committee issued a point of emphasis directing the officials to strictly flag a player for unsportsmanlike conduct if they taunt an opponent, through words and actions that disrespect or demean.

At the time I predicted that players and coaches would adapt to the new emphasis point after a few bumps in the early weeks.

After Week 2, in which there were 8 taunting flags thrown, fans screamed, and we had competing “truths” between the Competition Committee and the NFL Players Association.

At the time I said that the players have to adapt to the new emphasis. Since the second week, there has been a dramatic drop in taunting fouls:

  • Week 1 – 2 taunting flags
  • Week 2 – 8 taunting flags
  • Week 3 – 2 taunting flags
  • Week 4 – 1 taunting flag (and, admittedly, that should be a 0)

These trends show that the players, as usual, are adapting to the NFL point of emphasis — similar to the point of emphasis for roughing the passer of a few years ago.

Now, we can still debate whether or not this point of emphasis is a good idea, but the data shows that players are getting the message and cutting out taunting actions … so far.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"